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This compelling coming of age story will leave older teenage boys alternatively snorting with laughter and silently shivering in recognition at the strength and power of bullies. Dak Sifter grows from a bright, 12-year-old beginning to notice how men treat their sons and wives, through the suicide of an abused friend, to buying his first car, writing poetry and helping a friend connect with a girl. And arching over all his teenage years is Dak's love for Zoe Perry, whom he adores and relentlessly pursues in spite of her view of him as a friend, her relationships with other boys and her left-leaning politics. Scarsbrook has nailed the Canadian teenage boy's insecurities, victories over bullies and persistent sexual longing to the wall. In a laugh-out-loud-funny style laced with witty, sardonic remarks by our hero, Dak, Scarsbrook brings alive the pain of rejection, the excitement of real friendship and the ache of a lost love. This novel is divided into twelve loosely connected stories tied to Dak's school years (for example, Cruisin' Machine - Grade 10") from grade 7 to first year university. Although there are some classroom scenes (notably a very funny send up of hippy teacher Quentin Alvinstock's approach to writing), most of these linked stories take place at home and work and at (a howlingly funny) MacDonald's where Dak is refused service because he isn't wearing a shirt. (Just another reminder to teachers that the most important, memorable time in teenagers' lives do not happen at school and are intimately connected to other teens.) Scarsbrook's first person style moves the action along quickly and effortlessly. Dak's self-deprecating remarks and the sharp, witty dialogue allow the reader in on both Dak's feelings and other characters' strengths and weaknesses. Other teenage boys and some of the adult male characters use profanity in surprise and in anger, as they do in real life. Dak's voice is that of the gifted teenage boy: articulate, insightful, lustful, and more thoughtful as he ages. Dak's life story plays out in Faireville, a mythical yet typical suburb of the southern Ontario strip between Toronto and Ottawa. From school bus horrors to the local pickle factory to the ubiquitous MacDonald's, this story could be taking place anywhere in southern Canada. The time is a little less clear. It could be present day (they drive on Hwy 401), but it could be almost any time in the 1990's. The hero finds out about sex from Winifred Bright, the older loose woman who will sleep with any young man around. It would be more likely today for Dak to find out about sex from one of his willing classmates. This is the only odd note in an otherwise sharp photo of how a teenage boy becomes a wonderful man. Dak is a very sympathetic character who tries to keep his head down and stay out of trouble, a boy who is honest and thoughtful, and is, above all, the observer, the person who watches and reports on the wacky situations and people around him. He survives Xmas with weird relatives, the brutality of the local bullies, the viciousness of the pickle factory boss, the dishonesty of an evangelist, and having to share an art gallery job with his sister. Along the way, he gathers wisdom and the determination to live well. Secondary characters, such as Zoe and Dak's parents and neighbours, reveal their ideals and personalities through their actions and dialogue." —CM Materials
- Thistledown Press, January 2012
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